Purchasers cannot seek release of land as the purchase itself was illegal: judge

Purchasers of land that has been declared as surplus and ordered to be handed over to the Government under the Land Reforms Act cannot approach the court and seek a direction to release the properties from the land ceiling proceedings on the ground that they were not aware of the encumbrance, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice K. Chandru passed the ruling while dismissing two writ petitions filed by S. Bhuvaneswaran and S. Vaitheeswaran who purchased over 3 hectares of land in Manaveli village of Ariyankuppam Commune in Puducherry in September 2006 from an individual named Abdul Casim who, in turn, had purchased the properties from R.K. Selvaraj in Februrary 2006.

In August 2009, when the petitioners contacted the Sub-Registrar's office to ascertain the guideline value of the land to obtain a bank loan, they were informed that the properties were covered by the Pondicherry Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Lands) Act, 1973.

It had been declared as surplus land way back in April 1990 and ordered to be taken over by the government for distribution to the landless poor.

Immediately, the petitioners made a representation to the government. When there was no positive response, they filed the present cases seeking a direction to the Centre to release the land from the land ceiling proceedings and to take possession of alternative land, equal in area, from the remaining area belonging to Mr. Selvaraj.

However, in his counter affidavit, a Sub-Collector from Puducherry had objected to the plea.

The official had stated in his affidavit hat the original owner of the properties was very much aware of the proceedings under the Land Reforms Act in 1990 itself. Yet, he sold both the surplus as well as the retained portion to different individuals in violation of Section 22 (1) of the Land Reforms Act which prohibits alienation of land declared as surplus.

Agreeing with the official, the judge said: “The petitioners are third parties and purchase of the land by the petitioners' vendor (Adbul Casim) from the original owner (Selvaraj) itself is illegal and void… Hence, this court does not consider that the petitioners have made out any case.”

Justice K. Chandru also referred to a 1979 Supreme Court judgement in support of his conclusion. In the judgement related to Tamil Nadu Land Reforms Act, the apex court had said: “From the community's angle, especially the landless community's angle hungering for allotment, the alienation, however necessary for the individual, is not bona fide vis-à-vis the community.”